Bangladesh, the last nation to make Test debut before these two teams, had to wait five years and endured a record 21 successive Test losses before they could post their first Test win over Zimbabwe in 2005.
Ireland were the more impressive of the two Test debutants last year, pushing Pakistan to the brink at home in Malahide before valiantly losing by five wickets. Afghanistan though were hammered by an innings and 262 runs by India in Bengaluru on their debut last year.
The Dehradun Test should be much more evenly matched encounter between both sides. Afghanistan hammered Ireland in the T20 series 3-0 but the two sides settled for a 2-2 draw in the five-match ODI series, with one encounter rained off.
“It is a moment of pride that Afghanistan hosts its first Test match and it carries a lot of meaning for us. Although, we lost our inaugural Test match to India last year but we will aim to play in the upcoming Test match with full strength,” Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan said during the Test match trophy launch in Dehradun on Wednesday.
Afghan was the top run-scorer in the ODI series with 226 runs in five games at an average of 75.33 with three fifties. Afghan will bank on the services of his two most experienced players, Mohammed Nabi and Rashid Khan — both of whom have plenty of T20 franchise cricket experience all over the world.
Afghanistan have added left-arm wrist-spinner Zahir Khan and left-arm pacer Sayed Shirzad in their squad for the Test match. The 20-year-old Zahir made his international debut in the final ODI against Ireland last Sunday, bagging 2/55.
The 24-year-old Shirzad has played in four T20Is though he made his ODI debut in the same series against Ireland. The seamer has 49 wickets from 15 matches in first-class cricket at an average of just over 25. “Both Zahir Khan and Sayed Shirzad have very good bowling records in first-class cricket and have played in the ICC Intercontinental Cup for Afghanistan,” chief selector Dawlat Ahmadzi said.
Ireland have added the experienced Andrew Balbirnie to their Test squad after his fine run in the ODI series, which included a match-winning 145* in the fourth ODI.
“I’m desperate to consistently contribute to wins for Ireland and naturally I know it won’t happen every game, but if I stick to my strengths and work hard I hope it can happen more often,” Balbirnie told BBC Sport ahead of the Test match.
“It’s very special to play Test cricket, it's the game you grew up watching on TV, the home England Tests with Richie Benaud calling the game. I’d sit there all day as a kid watching these games and hoping it would be me one day. Representing Ireland in any format is a dream come true so to be able to be one of the first to do it in Test cricket is obviously an even better feeling,” the Ireland and Middlesex batsman added.
Ireland skipper William Porterfield was wary of taking Afghanistan lightly in Dehradun, considering the conditions on offer at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium.
“First and foremost, it will be completely different conditions (in the Test match) — our first Test match against Pakistan was a home game in Malahide in May whereas we are in Dehradun here in India in March. We will see how the pitch is in the next couple of days and expect it not to be very different,” Porterfield told the media on Wednesday.
The Irish skipper will bank on his pace spearhead Boyd Rankin to provide those early breakthroughs. The 6ft 8” Rankin has bagged 16 wickets on this tour so far.
“It’s been a long tour so far and it’s been pretty hectic since arriving in India. I’ve been involved in all the games, but the body feels pretty good at the moment. Saying that, the Test will be tough work for everyone, especially not playing any longer format cricket going into the match,” Rankin was quoted as saying by the Cricket Ireland official website.
“As an experience, it’s going to be hard to beat the feeling around Ireland’s first Test last year, but it’s always very special to play a Test match for your country and it will always have a buzz about it. Once we take the field it will be down to business of trying to win a game of cricket,” he added.
It should be fascinating five-day encounter between two Test match newbies with both sides eyeing an elusive Test win.
Afghanistan: Asghar Afghan (c), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Ihsanullah Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Nasir Jamal, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Waqar Salamkhail, Ikram Ali Khil, Yamin Ahmadzai, Rashid Khan, Wafadar Momand, Sharafudin Ashraf, Zahir Khan, Sayed Shirzad.
Ireland: William Porterfield (C), Paul Stirling, Andrew Balbirnie, James Cameron-Dow, Kevin O'Brien, George Dockrell, James McCollum, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Tim Murtagh, Stuart Poynter, Boyd Rankin, Lorcan Tucker, Simi Singh, Stuart Thompson.
First Published: March 14, 2019, 11:57 AM IST